Twitter locks China’s US embassy account for Uighur tweet violating ‘dehumanisation’ policies

Joe Sommerlad
·3-min read
China US Xinjiang (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
China US Xinjiang (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

China’s US embassy has had its Twitter account locked in response to a tweet defending the country’s policies towards Uighur Muslims in the western Xinjiang region, which the social media platform said had violated its policy against “dehumanisation”.

The account, @ChineseEmbinUS, declared on 7 January that, “in the process of eradicating extremism”, women belonging to the ethnic minority “were emancipated and gender equality and reproductive health were promoted, making them no longer baby-making machines”, citing a study reported by state-backed newspaper China Daily.

The message was removed by Twitter and replaced with a label stating that it is no longer available.

“We’ve taken action on the tweet for violating our policy against dehumanisation, where it states: We prohibit the dehumanisation of a group of people based on their religion, caste, age, disability, serious disease, national origin, race, or ethnicity,” a Twitter spokesperson said on Thursday.

Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry, responded by saying her country was a “major victim” of “fake and ugly information”.

“We hope Twitter will uphold the principles of objectivity and fairness… strengthen its screening, and screen out what is actually disinformation.”

China has been repeatedly forced to deny accusations of abuse in Xinjiang, where a United Nations panel has said at least 1m Uighurs and other Muslims have been detained in camps.

Last year, a report by researcher Adrian Zenz published by the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation think tank accused Beijing of using forced sterilisation, forced abortion and coercive family planning against minority Muslims.

The foreign ministry likewise insisted those allegations were groundless.

Most recently, the superpower was accused of abuse against the Turkic group by Donald Trump’s outgoing secretary of state Mike Pompeo.

“I have determined that the People’s Republic of China is committing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, China, targeting Uighur Muslims and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups,” he tweeted on Tuesday.

Mr Pompeo, an opponent of China who has blamed the country for inflicting the “Wuhan virus” on the world, was asked by Fox News why he had taken so long to join new US president Joe Biden in denouncing the alleged persecution and responded: “When you do something like this, you have to be right… and I think this will be a bipartisan analysis that will be shared by a broad swathe of American leadership and, indeed, leaders all across the world.”

Mr Biden's chosen successor to Mr Pompeo, Antony Blinken, has said he shares the same view but British prime minister Boris Johnson has so far declined to support their cause.

Twitter’s suspension of the embassy's account follows its removal of Mr Trump’s own in response to rioting on the US Capitol on 6 January, events that led to his historic second impeachment for “incitement to insurrection”.

The site has since moved to purge hundreds of accounts belonging to adherents of the sinister far-right QAnon conspiracy theory.

Twitter is blocked in China but is an increasingly popular tool among members of the country’s diplomatic corps and state media.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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